By Olivia Tracey
"Meet me by the tennis courts and we can sit by the pool," said 29-year-old Sadhbh Walshe over the cell phone in her soft Irish brogue. Sadhbh, (pronounced Sive) is currently one of a team of seven writers on the hot CBS drama series "The District," with none other than Terry George as senior writer and executive producer.
Barely five months in L.A. , she is indeed living the Hollywood dream, working in prime-time television with her own parking space on the lot and living it up in a Marina Del Ray resort, complete with swimming pools, Jacuzzis, tennis courts and, of course, idyllic Marina views. Life’s a beach.
Totally laid back, she greets me in shorts and bikini, glass of wine in one hand, cigarette in the other. Joining her is her boyfriend, Hay Tanning, a cute 30-something whom she met during her first two weeks in L.A. The twain have been joined at the hip ever since. Playing gooseberry, apart from myself, is a visiting college friend from Bantry, Co. Cork, Siobhan McAuley, who, coincidentally, had been a consultant on RTE’s "Murphy’s Micro Quiz " when I was co-hosting the show back in the 1980s.
If it seems like Sadhbh was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and everything handed to her on a matching platter, be not fooled for a minute. She has had more than her share of struggle and has indeed paid her dues. Born in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, she grew up in Charlesville, Co. Cork, the second youngest of five children that included Grainne, Dara, Donncha and Fergal. At 17, she moved with her family to Murroe, Co. Limerick, where they have a farm. However, the rich farmer tag eluded the Walshes as both of Siobhan’s parents had to work other jobs: her father, Pat, as a fitter, her mother, Marie, in social research. So despite Sadhbh’s realization from early childhood that she was born to go the United States to work in film, she was bred toward more practical pursuits.
This brought her to Dublin City University, where she spent years doing a degree in International Marketing and Languages (German and French). She found life in the Big Smoke exciting as she had only been there once before, "on a visit to the zoo for my Communion," she said laughing.
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Even more exhilarating was her one-year work experience program in Berlin, where she not only soaked up the politically charged post-Berlin Wall atmosphere, but also managed to blarney her way into directing what turned out to be a very successful theater production.
This whetted her creative appetite even more to venture into film, just as her lasting impression of Woody Allen, plus "Tootsie" and "When Harry met Sally" were drawing her to the United States.
However, this was the early ’90s, the pre-Celtic Tiger years of survival. And survive she did, between a doomed stint in Paris struggling as a waitress and teacher while taking evening courses in theater and photography, followed by a return home to 50-punts-per-week dole assistance before graduating to Quinnsworth at 80 punts per week.
Though accepted to film school at the prestigious Southampton University, she couldn’t afford the £2,000 annual fees, so she gladly settled for getting paid to learn with a FAS course in video production at Radio Kerry in Tralee. Enter her friend Siobhan, yet again who had her own program at the station, "The Week in Focus." However, just as the two women set up in a flat share and Sadhbh landed a job with the station as sound engineer, Fas offered her a two-month internship in Germany with the national TV station, WDR. She accepted and during her time there she waitressed at night to finance her way to America, where she eventually moved in July 1994, a month after winning her green card on lottery. Her dream was about to unfold.
Not yet, I’m afraid. She experienced the typical New York nightmare, sharing one room in the Village with four others, while waitressing, temping, babysitting and interning at an editing facility in an effort to survive. Meanwhile she sent her resume to every radio station in New York and got a call from WNYC inviting her to interview. Three interviews later, she got hired as an assistant producer. It paid $5 an hour. Needless to say, she needed supplementary income and found it wrapping Christmas presents on Fifth Avenue, temping and babysitting, yet still falling way short of a comfortable wage. So, one evening, in desperation, she approached the manager of 7th Avenue’s Mustang Sally’s, announcing, "If you don’t hire me tonight, I won’t eat, and neither will my cat." She got hired on the spot.
Her desperation brought her a lucky twist of fate because it was there, in Mustang’s, that she met Terry George and Jim Sheridan. Terry put her in touch with Patricia O’Reilly’s "Out Of Ireland," where she worked for almost two years while still continuing her various nixers. Through the show, she enjoyed meeting a host of interesting personalities, from Roddy Doyle and Neil Jordan to the adorable Gregory Peck. She also attended a host of colorful events, including the screening of "Some Mother’s Son" and the "Out of Ireland" third anniversary party where she met up with Terry again. He expressed an interest in hiring her, and within months she became his assistant.
Terry taught her how to be a writer, working through outlines and treatments to script reading and analysis. She spent an exhilarating four months in Thailand as research coordinator on Terry’s HBO film "A Bright Shining Lie." Before long she was promoted to associate producer of the company, collaborated on the writing of "The District" pilot, joined The Writers’ Guild and, as soon as the series got picked up by CBS, moved to Hollywood. Meanwhile, cast and crew are celebrating the premier show’s having attracted 17 million viewers, which topped the ratings for the evening. "The District," starring the charismatic Craig T. Nelson, airs Saturday at 10 p.m. on CBS. Believe it or not, it even keeps me at home.